Senate District candidates Jen Metzger (D/Working Families Party/Serve America Movement Party) and Mike Martucci (R/Conservative Party/Independence Party) participated in a debate Monday evening at the Seligmann Center in the hamlet of Sugar Loaf.
The 42nd Senate District covers much of the Catskills and western Hudson Valley, including all of Sullivan County and parts of Orange, Ulster and Delaware Counties. The Towns of Shawangunk and Gardiner are part of the district.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, there was no live audience in attendance. The debates were live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube.
The debate was presented by the Orange County Citizens Foundation in cooperation with the Jewish Federation of Orange County, Leadership Orange, NAACP of Newburgh/Highland Falls, Orange County Arts Council, Orange County Chamber of Commerce, Orange County Land Trust, Orange County Partnership and the Women’s Bar Association of Orange and Sullivan Counties.
Candidates were allowed two minutes for opening and closing statements, 90 seconds to respond to each question and a 30-second rebuttal period. Dr. Larry Force, Director of the Center on Aging and Policy at Mount Saint Mary College, was the moderator for the debate. The candidates answered questions pertaining to the economy: justice, equity and social well-being: infrastructure and natural resources: leadership and education.
Martucci lives in Wawayanda and is a lifelong Orange County resident. At the age of 22, he took his life savings and opened a school bus business called Quality Bus Service. Martucci, now 35, has grown Quality Bus Service to more than 550 employees with more than 350 school buses that provide critical services to thousands of local school children each day.
“Today I’m running for state senate because I see that New York is headed in the wrong direction...,” he said in his opening statement. “What I know and what the people that I’ve been speaking with know is it’s time for change. It’s time to elect a senator who will really represent our values. Who will do things like lower taxes, protect our schools, create good jobs and keep our families safe.”
Metzger, of Rosendale, is seeking re-election to represent the 42nd Senate District. She was elected in Nov. 2018 and assumed office on Jan. 9, 2019.
“What matters is getting results, not party labels or politics,” she said in her opening statement. “In my first term, I’ve been proud to deliver locally on things that matter to our communities. I brought funding to our district for diverse needs like protecting our black dirt farmers from flooding, providing housing and mental health support to our veterans and needed equipment to our emergency first responders, developing our recreational trail network and protecting our open spaces. I will continue to make sure that the Hudson Valley communities’ needs are protected and that you have a strong leader in Albany.”
One of the questions regarding the economy asked the candidates what they would do to balance the state’s budget, which has a deficit of approximately $17 billion. Martucci advocated for reducing wasteful spending in the budget, such as eliminating a nearly half of $1 billion tax credit for Hollywood filmmakers. Metzger added that the state needs to get creative and look at additional sources of revenue. She suggested enabling mobile sports gambling and putting a tax on corporate stock buybacks.
Both candidates felt strongly about addressing inequality. Metzger said that the state should be expanding investments in school-based health systems that make sure that every child has access to the healthcare they need. She has a goal of having universal pre-kindergarten throughout the state. Every year, Metzger advocates for more funding for this program, as it has been shown to improve educational outcomes for children and enables women to get back into the workforce. Martucci wants to teach children how to maintain healthy relationships.
When asked how she would create more harmony in an increasingly divisive world, Metzger noted that she takes a problem-solving approach to state government. All of her bills that have been signed into law have passed with wide bipartisan support because they address issues that are important to communities in the region. Campaigns can also set the tone for creating harmony.
“In this campaign I have been focused on what can we do together,...” Metzger said. “We need to roll up our sleeves and work together to solve the problems our communities face.”
Martucci agreed that collaboration is key, a lesson he learned from working with employees and schools operating his business.
Metzger and Martucci voiced their stances on remote learning. Martucci noted that there should be money in the state budget to expand broadband networks in New York. This is of paramount importance because remote learning will be in effect for the foreseeable future and students need access to the internet. Metzger agreed that the broadband gaps create inequalities. Her comprehensive broadband bill, which will close the gap, was passed in the legislature and she is waiting for the governor to sign it. Metzger has also been working to secure funds for a municipal broadband project in Sullivan County. She has also worked with individuals one-on-one to get people connected to the internet.
The candidates will face off in the general election on Nov. 3.
“What this race really comes down to is the approach and who has the approach to make this work,” Martucci said in his closing statement. “So as a father and a husband and a job creator one of the things that I’m absolutely sure of is that Albany has failed us. But I’m also absolutely sure that government can fix the problems that it has created and I look forward to being part of turning that around.”
“I know how to roll up my sleeves and get the work done that needs to be done for our communities,” Metzger said in her closing statement. “And I have the energy, experience and commitment to get results.”